Ahimsa: Nonviolence

I’m a yoga teacher on the weekends. As part of my goals for this year, I wanted to take time to think through some basic principals of yoga, as well as take some workshops for continued education. In yoga training, I was introduced to the yoga sutras, yamas and niyamas. No, you don’t need to know what those things are to reap the benefits! Basically, they are guidelines for living a meaningful life. Who doesn’t want that?

This month, I’ve been focusing on something called Ahimsa. Ahimsa is respect for all living things and avoidance of violence toward others. Obviously we don’t want to go out and punch the next person that frustrates us (I’d be in trouble if that was allowed). The idea of nonviolence is to treat yourself, and others with respect. It is to understand that when you say harsh words, or are inconsiderate, you are not only hurting the person you’re speaking to, but also hurting yourself by hardening your heart.

Ahimsa means something different to everyone. To me, it means thinking kind thoughts about people around me, assuming the best, loving the unlovable, recycling and loving the earth God gave us, leaving a place better than you found it, spreading kindness and goodness, not speaking poorly behind someone’s back, being open to new adventures, and for me it even means not eating meat.

Do I actually do those things on a regular basis? Probably not. It is something I work towards and try to be very conscious of. Each week, I focused on new questions surrounding ahimsa from the book The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice by Deborah Adele. The book has challenged me to mull over questions throughout the week. I did this every week for the month of January. Some of the questions include:

  • Practice courage by doing something you normally wouldn’t do. How does your relationship change with others when you courageously step into unknown territories?
  • Guard your balance. Think of the things you need and be ok with them. Do you base your decisions on what you need or what you THINK you need?
  • Are you a fixer? Do you run interference on other people’s lives? Discern the difference between help and support. Are you avoiding something in your own life by involving yourself in others?
  • Pretend you are complete. Don’t criticize or change. Do you need to offer yourself more grace or kindness?

Each of these questions were a good mental exercise in being kind/fair to myself as well as others. Sometimes my introverted-ness means I’m not courageous in stepping out to help others. Many times, I’m not kind to myself and often criticize the things I do. Those bad habits can be mentally taxing, soI enjoyed spending my last week of January loving the person I am. Now to make that a daily habit!

Learning something new can be wonderful. Next month I’ll be studying a different yama on my own time. If any of these questions were helpful try assigning them to your mental free time. How can you be more loving? Maybe it’s thinking kind things and sending warm vibes in the office, maybe it is taking a day of rest for yourself and family. Whatever it is, give it a try! The root of non-violence (ahimsa) is love after all.

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